When Josh Allen pulled off a win over the Minnesota Vikings three weeks ago, it shook one of the fundamental truths of Mike Zimmer’s time in the North: Rookie quarterbacks do not beat the Vikings. That truth was restored on Sunday as the Vikings’ defense abused Josh Rosen in a 27-17 win at US Bank Stadium.
The first quarter opened up exactly how we expected between two teams that have a massive talent gap. Minnesota, coming off a huge win in Philadelphia last week, moved the ball effectively on their first two drives and came away with a touchdown while the Cardinals’ offense sputtered.
Rosen went three-and-out on his first drive and then Arizona’s rookie did hit a 35-yard pass to set up a field goal. The Vikings responded on the next drive with Anthony Barr — who looked like the 2015 version on Sunday, forcing a David Johnson fumble.
The Vikings’ offense did everything it could to help out the former UCLA quarterback in the second quarter, but over and over again the defense came through. Following a Kirk Cousins interception, Rosen completed another deep pass to put the Cards at the Minnesota goal line, but the Vikings stopped Arizona on four straight plays for a turnover on downs.
The next three Minnesota drives resulted in a three-and-out, fumble for a Budda Baker touchdown, tying the game at 10 a piece and another three-and-out.
But the Vikings’ defense came up with a 2017-style huge stop late in the first half. They shut down Arizona, who was backed up against their own goal line, on three plays, setting up a Vikings field goal to end the half up by three points.
The second half was all Vikings on both sides of the ball. Cousins opened up the half by leading a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by an excellent TD throw to Adam Thielen to put the Vikings up by double digits.
If there was any chance for the Cards to hang around, the Vikings’ defense put that to bed midway through the third quarter. They sacked Rosen to force another three-and-out and then picked off the former UCLA star with 3:12 remaining in the third.
Zimmer baffled Rosen on third downs throughout the game, sending rushers from all different areas. Both Mackensie Alexander and Harrison Smith had sacks and Arizona finished 0-for-10 on third down.
While the Cardinals entered as one of the league’s worst offenses, the loss to Buffalo lingered in Vikings fans’ minds. It was fair to wonder if they would pull a repeat of the confounding Week 3 performance and allow another rookie to hit on big plays to open receivers.
That was far from the case for the majority of the game as the Vikings’ linebackers did not allow any success throwing short to running back David Johnson and the secondary closed out Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald. Alexander was in coverage on a late fourth-and-2 that popped out of Fitzgerald’s hands for a turnover on downs.
Rosen and the Cards moved the ball at times in the fourth quarter, pushing the ball down field with completions of 18, 14 and 16 yards leading to a touchdown to bring them within 10 points, but the Vikings’ defense answered again on the next drive, sacking Rosen and stopping a screen to Fitzgerald for a loss on third-and-long to put the final dagger in Arizona’s back.
Overall Minnesota gave up just 269 total yards to the Cardinals.
The Vikings will match up with another rookie next week. If they can repeat Sunday’s dominance in New York against Sam Darnold, they will head into the game of the year versus New Orleans with a confidence that did not exist just two weeks ago.
No matter the hiccups in the first half, the Vikings have an opportunity to soon prove they belong back in the conversation with other top contenders in the NFC.